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Depression increases risk for heart disease more than genetics or environment
Date:3/4/2009

ed, the researchers could divide participants into risk groups: twins with high genetic and environmental risk for depression, those with moderate risk and those with a low risk. The risk groups then were compared for incident heart disease adjusting for other influences on heart disease such as smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

"By separating the twins into these groups based on their genetic and environmental risks, we are able differentiate the genetic risks common to depression and heart disease and the risks for heart disease from exposure to depression," says co-investigator Hong Xian, Ph.D., associate professor of mathematics in medicine at Washington University and health science specialist at the VA.

Twins automatically are matched by age. They normally grow up in the same family environment, and in the case of identical twins, they share identical DNA.

"If one twin has depression, but his twin brother does not, both twins will share genetic vulnerability for depression, but it turns out the twin who was not depressed has less risk for heart disease," says Scherrer. "In sum, depression itself remains a significant contributor to incident heart disease after controlling for genes, environment and mental and physical risk factors."

Scherrer and Xian plan to follow these twins as they age. They also plan to study the effects of successful depression treatment on heart disease risk.


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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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